10 ways to help your dental practice compete now and in the future

March 1, 2016

Dentistry is a competitive field. If you want your practice to thrive so that you can enjoy your career and retire comfortably, it’s not enough to go with the flow. You need to take concrete steps to ensure the success of your dental practice.

Dentistry is a competitive field. If you want your practice to thrive so that you can enjoy your career and retire comfortably, it’s not enough to go with the flow. You need to take concrete steps to ensure the success of your dental practice.

By learning to think as both a dentist and a CEO, I took my practice from $600,000 a year to $6,000,000 a year in 12 twelve years. I did this while cutting my marketing costs by 75 percent and attracting, on average, 300 new patients a month.

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I often advise young dentists on how to create strong, profitable practices, but these tips aren’t just for people who are starting out. If you want to revive and improve your dental practice, you need to be doing the following things.

Continue to the next page to see what you should be doing to help your practice thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

1. Have a strong vision for your practice

Without a vision, you can’t plan. Ask yourself why you’re in business. Why do you keep coming into the office each day? For most of us, the answer is to improve the dental health of our patients and communities. As you plan for the future, keep your goal in mind. It will give you the focus and creativity you need to build a strong practice.

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You’ll also need a plan for the sort of office you want to run. Do you want an extremely high-volume office with very low profit margins? A somewhat high-volume office with mediocre margins? Or a low-volume, high margin practice? Create a practice that helps you meet your goals for the number of patients served and the amount of profits.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Learn the business and be a CEO

If you want your practice to thrive, it’s not enough to be an excellent doctor. You also need to develop your business acumen and become an excellent CEO. Study books and articles on business and management. Think about sources of growth for your practice, and how to maximize them.

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For a typical dental practice, your growth comes from three sources: new patients, more frequent services to existing patients and more spending from existing patients. Think about what new services could develop revenue in each of these three areas.

 

 

 

 

 

3. See what corporate DSO offices do and mimic them

You need to think like a businessman. Your practice buys a large amount of supplies and services every year. When was the last time you put them out to bid?  Are there certain office functions, like collections and billing, that might be more affordable to outsource than to keep in house? Think like a corporation, not a craftsman, when it comes to analyzing expenses.

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4. Become a self-managed organization

In a self-managed organization, the CEO could disappear and the company would continue to function. You want to develop a self-managed office. Self-managed dental practices fetch a higher price when you retire, and also allow you the flexibility to take vacations or family leave during your working years.

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5. Invest in real estate

Real estate investing helps you in a few different ways. Owning rental properties helps you generate passive income. You can also leverage those properties when you want the funds to expand your practice. Finally, they act as a form of life insurance. You can leave them to your family if you die, and they can live off the passive income.

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6. Be a super-GP

Develop some in-house specialties to set you apart from the competition and bring in new patients. For instance, learn how to provide Invisalign treatments, or become an expert on dental implants. Every dentist in town can clean teeth and fill cavities. If you want your practice to grow, you have to expand your skill-set.

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7. Get them to say yes

One of the most frustrating situations a dentist deals with is the patient who refuses necessary treatment. This might be something as simple as a new flossing routine or as major as oral surgery. We hate to see our patients and their smiles suffer, but sometimes fear overcomes reason, and our patients reject our treatment plans.

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If you want to be a successful dentist, you need to learn how to persuade people to do what’s in their best interest. I’ve found that Dr. Robert Cialdini’s method of ethical persuasion is a wonderful way to help people make better decisions. It uses the principles of reciprocity, liking, consensus, authority, consistency and scarcity to ethically influence decisions. I’d recommend checking out Cialdini’s work to see if you can use it in your own practice.

 

 

 

 

 

8. Start a group practice

Group practices are the future of dentistry. They let us offer a wider range of services to our patients. With a group practice, if one person is sick or on vacation, there are still plenty of people to cover his shifts. You can be open for more hours and provide more emergency services. A group practice will help you remain competitive without destroying your work-life balance. It also makes it easier to have a self-managed practice that will hold its value when you retire. More dentists working together means more stability for you and your patients.

Related reading: Here's what you need to know about group dental practices in 2016

 

 

 

 

 

9. Give your associates autonomy

If you take on associates in your practice, give them autonomy. Let them decide what’s best for their patients, and give them incentives for providing excellent treatment and saving money. Offer your associates a chance to buy equity in the practice. When you want to retire, it’s easier to sell off a practice bit by bit to your associates than to find a single buyer.

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10. Look for hurdles to treatment and provide solutions

Are there groups in your area who don’t receive adequate dental care? What keeps them out of the office? Try to identify the hurdles your patients face, and offer them solutions. For instance, in my own community, I noticed that retirees frequently lacked dental insurance. They’d avoid the dentist until a problem became too painful to ignore, even though earlier treatment is less costly and more effective.

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 I developed an in-house dental savings plan to reach retirees and get them into the office. Your own community has people who should be coming into the office, but aren’t. Find a way to get them in and get them care.